Monday, December 14, 2009

Information, Please

Where you go for information about severe weather may be a function of how old you are. If you’re my age, and can remember dinosaurs roaming the earth, it may have been radio or TV. But if you’re a generation younger, it was more likely you got more “real” information from the internet or your cell phone.

Nobody expects the newspaper to have the latest up-to-the-minute news about changing weather and road conditions, but they try hard to keep their website updated. The three local TV news stations were good until about 7, when they have to join their network programs, and are relegated to a few minutes at half-past for a quick local update. But they run updates on the “crawl” above or below the picture.

Local radio tries to cover breaking and developing news, but news staffs have been downsized so much in the past year the handful who still draw a paycheck doing radio news are stretched too thin to be of much service. On Wednesday morning, after 7 o’clock, WIBA-AM was doing its best to keep current, my old pal Sly on WTDY-AM was railing about Penelope Trunk’s latest outrageous statement; and the “music” stations were doing “frequent updates”.

Local radio is useful in reporting school closings, if you’re listening at the right time; the TV’s run the school closings in a continuous crawl at the top or bottom of the screen; and several of the broadcast stations have the closings (or, “closures”, as several of the TV anchors now say) on their websites.

Radio or TV is likely where parents get school closings, but the younger set has a new-age workaround: the cell phone or the social media website. Your kids probably found out school was closed via text message from a pal, or when they logged onto their Facebook or MySpace page.

It amuses me to watch the development of how electronic mass media are dealing with the sea changes taking place. A couple of the local TV stations ran live chats, on their websites, for people to exchange information, and ask questions. Actual example: “Will there be trash pickup tomorrow?” Response: “We’re looking into it”. Gee, thanks.

Various local radio and TV stations now offer “breaking news” updates via cell phone messages or text blasts. Everybody’s trying to be everything to all people on all delivery platforms, and it’s creating some interesting scenarios. Quite a few people I know said they got more of what they wanted to know from Twitter, Facebook, and their smart phone.

When Apple comes out with its new tablet some time next year, it’s liable to be a huge leap forward. Word is it will be a PDF reader, iTunes player, video player, internet surfer, Apple aps runner, Kindle-killer, you-name-it. It will further change a world where a third of us DVR TV and watch it when WE want, discover new music not through radio but on the internet, and consider our cell phone our most important personal electronic device.

Since I’m not usually an “early adopter”, I’m going to have to keep scrambling to keep up. But it’s going to be a fascinating story as it develops


  1. I'm not good at quatrains, but I'll nevertheless venture a prediction of the future: If the anticipated Apple tablet looks and acts like a tablet, it will be a flop. They may as well name it Newton II and move on.

    Tablets, in my consumer-eye view, are a once and former future. What advantages does the gizmo confer on the next-generation market? It's not like the young folk are voracious readers. They can already watch video and listen to music on their phones and iPods. No young person I know is going to lug a tablet, too, or give up their web-capable PDA for such a cumbersome battery-gobbling contraption.

    This would not be a propitious moment to go the early-adopter route, methinks.

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